Mothers have long been a mainstay of television shows and movies.
They’re the “gluey-ness” that holds the family together through thick and thin. They’re the nurturers who are always at the ready with advice to dispense, shoulders to cry on, and freshly baked cookies. They’re the last people you’d ever want to have live next door to you when you’re an adult and the first ones you call up to share good news. One moment they’re embarrassing you, the next moment they’re defending you against anyone who thinks you’re less than perfect. They can be Heaven-sent angels, your worst nightmare, or so detached from who you really are that you can’t imagine ever having anything in common.
These discussion questions provide a good foundation prior to choosing which exercises to try first.
1. Who is your favorite TV mom and why?
2. Who’s your favorite mom depicted in movies and why?
3. If a film were made about your own mom, who would play that role?
4. What are the top three qualities a mother should have?
5. What’s the most embarrassing thing your mom has ever done in front of your friends?
6. What’s the most amazing thing your mom has ever done to show her love for you?
7. If you had a problem and your own mom wasn’t available, which TV mom would you most likely go to for advice on how to solve it?
8. If your mom lived in any century other than this one, which would it be and why do you think she’d fit in there?
Given the number of tasks performed in the course of a day – chauffeur, nurse, cook, teacher, housekeeper, accountant, mediator, etc. – a lot of mothers would easily make the ranks of super-heroes. In The Incredibles (2004), Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack are the offspring of a pair of crime-fighting parentals with pretty nifty powers and colorful costumes. Not only does Mom know how to save the day in this lively flick but sometimes she even has to rescue Dad.
Your assignment: Write a two-page film treatment in which a suburban housewife suddenly discovers she has the supernatural ability to (fill in the blank). Identify (1) how this came about, (2) what are its limitations, (3) what type of costume and/or special accessories are involved, and (4) how does this affect her relationship with her two teenagers and husband.
WHO’S THE ADULT HERE?
In 1976 and again in 2003, a movie called Freaky Friday demonstrated what can happen when a mother and daughter discover what it’s like to not only walk a mile in each other’s shoes but also assume each other’s outward appearance.
Your assignment: Write a three-page scene in which you and your mom have traded places but she has now decided that being “you” gives her a chance to do everything she missed out on when she was your age. In other words, she doesn’t want to switch back any time soon.
In 1970, a sitcom debuted about a suburban widow and her offspring who all happened to be pop musicians. The Partridge Family – along with their manager – took the show on the road in a kooky looking van (and matching outfits) for the next four years.
Your assignment: The young protagonist in your story has always had his/her heart set on starting a rock band. Unfortunately, money is really tight and the only person who could possibly make the dreams of stardom a reality will only do so if she can play in the group. Yes, you guessed it. It’s the protagonist’s mother. Write a three-page scene in which the protagonist and the band-mates come up with a way to let her participate without losing their sanity.
MUSIC TO MY EARS
It has been said in many different ways but the fact is that no matter how crowded a house is, a mother will always find a way to bring everyone in who needs a home and some extra love. The Blind Side (2009) is a semi-autobiographical film about a wealthy woman named Leigh Anne Tuohy who adopts an impoverished African American teen and becomes instrumental in his segue to the NFL.
Your assignment: In the film you want to write, the protagonist mom (a former concert pianist) has been trying for years to teach her kids how to play the piano. They hate it. One day a foster agency calls and asks her if she can provide a temporary home to a young person with nowhere else to go. In a very short time, Mom discovers that s/he’s a natural at the keyboard. Write a one-page synopsis that shows how the attention she gives the newcomer impacts (positively or negatively) the existing family dynamic and what happens when the time comes for their guest to be placed in a different home.
GO TO YOUR (TOWER) ROOM!
Is being sent to your room such a bad punishment if there are plenty of interesting things to do once you get there? (For me, it represented hours of blissfully uninterrupted reading, drawing pictures, and rearranging my closet.) Consider the plight, though, of poor Rapunzel who has never been out of her room since birth. It was dysfunctional enough that her peasant parents traded her for a bag of lettuce; her new mom seems to have strange ideas about keeping her permanently under lock and key. Fortunately for Rapunzel, Mummy forgot to take away her cell phone.
Your assignment: Write a two-page phone intercut scene in which Rapunzel complains to her BFF that she has met a boy her completely clueless mom would totally disapprove of.
As part of my ongoing commitment to supply great lesson plans for today’s classrooms, I always enjoy getting feedback on how the material is used and what kind of new content you’d like to see in future columns. I’m also happy to answer any questions related to specific problems your students may be struggling with. Just drop me a note at or through my website at http://www.authorhamlett.com.
Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, professional script consultant, and ghostwriter. Her credits to date include 30 books, 154 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.